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Story Of London

London Street Musicians Part 3


The Strand Magazine was first published in 1891 and survived until after the Second World War. It published a mixture of fiction and factual studies of contemporary life. This series of five articles presents its summary of the musicians one might find on the streets of London in the 1890s. The additional notes are by .

The Tom-tom, The Bassoon and The TrumpetThe Indian Tom-Tom PlayerThe Indian Tom-Tom Player
Amongst the intolerable street musicians must certainly be place the Indian tom-tom player. His instrument is a drum of a very primitive kind, made out of a section of the hollow trunk of a tree, over each end of which a skin is tightly stretched. it is about the size of an oyster barrel, and the noise is produced by beating it with the hands. There are but two tones – one from each end and the mournful monotony of the music is varied by a few notes of a tuneless song which the player now and then puts in. The servant girls are his principal patrons, and some years since one of these tom-tomers completely captivated a young English cook-maid and married her.Pumper the BassoonistThe BassoonistThe bassoonist admits that he has seen better days, but he enjoys playing his awkward-looking instrument, and, when in the humour, plays it remarkably well. he was once in a military band, then in an orchestra at a theatre, and now picks up a pretty penny by playing in the evening in the West-end Squares. He don’t care for permanent engagements, and prefers to be “on his own hook,” though he occasionally chums up with another street musician – Old Blowhard, who plays the cornet-à-piston. He only plays by ear, and can, therefore only manage a few tunes, to which the bassoonist extemporises a telling bass. According to the bassoonist, “Blowhard is a rattling old boy when in a good-humour, but he’s awful short-tempered; and often when in the middle of a duet – especially in ‘All’s Well’ – he’ll stop blowing, call me nasty names, and step it. But he soon comes round again, and soaps me over by playing very feelingly -‘I love new friends, but still give me
The dear, dear friends of old.'”According to Blowhard, the “Pumper” – that is, the bassoonist – is all right when he plays fair, but he will put in flourishes and fireworks, which puts me out and spoils everything.”